London: COVID-19 vaccines would have prevented more than 42 lakh potential deaths in India in 2021, said a study published in The Lancet Infectious Disease journal, which is based on estimates of “excess” mortality in the country during the pandemic.
Globally, a mathematical modeling study found that COVID-19 vaccines reduced potential mortality during the pandemic by about 20 million (1 million = 10 million), or more than half in the year following their implementation.
In the first year of the vaccination program, 19.8 million of a potential 31.4 million COVID-19 deaths were prevented worldwide, based on more deaths from 185 countries and territories, the researchers said.
The study estimates that another 5,99,300 lives could have been saved if the World Health Organization’s target of vaccinating 40 percent of the population in each country with two or more doses by the end of 2021 was met.
The study estimated the number of preventable deaths between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021, indicating the first year in which vaccines were distributed.
“For India, we estimate that immunization prevented 42,10,000 deaths during this period. This is our central estimate, the uncertainty in this estimate is in the range of 36,65,000-43,70,000.
“This modeling study shows that the vaccination campaign in India has saved millions of lives. It shows the remarkable impact that vaccination has had, especially in India, the first country to experience the effects of the delta variant. Was,” Watson said in an email.
India’s numbers are based on estimates that the country would have had 51,60,000 (48,24,000-56,29,000) deaths during the pandemic, 10 times the official figure of 5,24,941 deaths recorded so far. They said.
“These estimates are based on estimates of higher mortality rates in India during the COVID-19 pandemic, which we have obtained from The Economist and are similar to those reported by the WHO. Independently, our group has investigated COVID-19 deaths based on reports of additional mortality and seroprevalence surveys and arrived at similar estimates of about 10 times the official count,” Watson said.
According to The Economist’s estimate, as of early May 2021, COVID-19 killed 2.3 million people in India, compared to the official figure of around 2,00,000.
The WHO last month estimated that there were 4.7 million Covid-linked deaths in India, a figure the government denied.
Of the nearly 20 million deaths that occurred in the first year after vaccination, about 7.5 million deaths were prevented in countries covered by the COVID-19 Vaccine Access Initiative (COVAX), the researchers said.
COVAX was established because it quickly became clear that global vaccine equity would be the only way out of the pandemic, he said.
Researchers said the initiative facilitates access to affordable vaccines for low-income countries to try to reduce inequalities, with a commitment by the end of 2021 to give 20 percent of the population in covered countries both vaccine doses. aims at.
Since the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered outside a clinical trial setting on December 8, 2020, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (66 percent), they noted. .
Despite the incredible pace of vaccine roll-out around the world, more than 3.5 million COVID-19 deaths have been reported since the first vaccine was administered in December 2020, he said.
To estimate the impact of global immunization programmes, researchers used country-level data for officially recorded COVID-19 deaths that occurred between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021, as a measure of COVID-19 transmission. Used the established model.
To account for the under-reporting of deaths in countries with weak surveillance systems, they conducted a separate analysis based on the number of deaths recorded higher than expected during the same time period.
The researchers said China was not included in the analysis because of its large population and very strict lockdown measures, which skewed the findings.
The team found that based on officially recorded COVID-19 deaths, an estimated 18.1 million deaths would have occurred during the study period if vaccination had not been implemented.
Of these, the model estimates that vaccination has prevented 14.4 million deaths, representing a global reduction of 79 percent.
These findings do not account for the under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths, which is common in low-income countries.
The team did another analysis based on the total additional deaths during the same time period.
They found that COVID-19 vaccination prevented an estimated 19.8 million deaths out of a total of 31.4 million possible deaths without vaccination, a 63 percent reduction.
More than three-quarters (79 percent) of deaths were due to direct protection against severe symptoms provided by vaccination, which reduced mortality, the researchers said.
He said the remaining 4.3 million deaths were prevented by indirect protection from reduced transmission of the virus in the population and reduced the burden on health systems, thereby improving medical care for those most in need.
The study found that the effect of the vaccine changed over time and as the pandemic progressed in different regions of the world.
In the first half of 2021, the greatest number of vaccination deaths were observed in low-middle-income countries, resulting in the delta variant emerging as a significant pandemic wave in India.
This later shifted to the second half of 2021 with the biggest impact being concentrated in high-income countries, as restrictions on travel and social distancing were eased in some regions, leading to greater virus transmission.
A reduction in the WHO target of fully immunizing 40 percent of each country’s population by the end of 2021 estimates an additional 5,99,300 deaths worldwide could have been prevented.
Low-middle income countries account for most of these deaths.
“Our study demonstrates the enormous benefit of vaccines in reducing COVID-19 deaths globally,” said Professor Azra Ghani, Chair of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London.
“While the intense focus on the pandemic has now shifted, it is vital that we ensure that the most vulnerable in all parts of the world are protected from the ongoing prevalence of COVID-19 and other major diseases that afflict the poorest. continuously influenced. ,” said Ghani.
The authors note several limitations to their findings. In particular, their model is based on several essential assumptions, including the exact proportions of what types of vaccines have been distributed, how they were distributed and when new virus variants arrived in each country.
They also recognized that the relationship between age and the proportion of COVID-19 deaths among infected persons is the same for each country.
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